Since my last post, about the Game from the Tomb of Puabi in the Royal Cemetery of Ur, I have discovered that there were two other games found in the same cemetery, in other graves, which are basically the same game as this one, although with slightly different designs. Both of those games, are kept in the National Museum of Iraq, in Baghdad, and their high resolution photos are not available yet. Since the museum was looted in 2003, and was closed until 2015, it is not clear if these games survived and are in the museum now, or not. Per various rumors on the web, The National Museum of Iraq is currently in the process of digitizing all of the artifacts and is scheduled to publish the photos online by the end of 2018. Hopefully, this will actually happen, and then I can more clearly reproduce the game boards. Until then, I will refer to the lower quality photos published in 1934 by the British archaeologist who found them, Sir Leonard Woolley, in his various books (see bibliography).
One game (Ur Artifact U11162), has the same 3×4 grid of 12 squares, with tiles of lions and deer, and a single rosette. It was found with a total of 13 tiles, 2 rosettes, and 9 animals. 12 tiles were assembled into a single block and the last remaining rosette tile was left out by the restorers. Clearly this game was left unfinished or got broken at some point in time. Woolley wrote that the game from the Tomb of Puabi that is now kept in the Penn Museum (Ur Artifact U9776) was found with 12 tiles with animals, and 2 tiles with rosettes, and only 12 out of the 14 tiles were reassembled by the restorers, and they chose to reassemble only the animals tiles and leave the rosettes out.
12 Squares Board with Animals and Rosette (Ur Artifact U11162), kept in the National Museum of Iraq (IM 8204 – IM 8212).
The other complete, although damaged, game (Ur Artifact 10557), has the same board of 20 squares as the Royal Game of Ur, in the same shape, and it has the same tiles with gazelles, deer, and bulls, as well as rosettes. This game board came with a full set of playing pieces, 7 of which were squares with 5 dots on them, just like the Royal Game of Ur, and 7 had animals drawn on them.
Royal Game of Ur with Animals (Ur Artifact U10557), kept in the National Museum of Iraq (IM 8221).
This led me to conclude that the two games of 12 squares are really just unfinished boards of the Royal Game of Ur, where the larger block has been completed, but the bridge and the smaller block have not, although separate tiles from them were left near by.
Finally, there is a fragment of another game with animals (Ur Artifact U9112), which was found in the Tomb of Puabi as well, where the left column of the larger block has been assembled and has a border next to it with eyes similar to the border on the Royal Game of Ur. All 4 animals on this fragment are facing to the right, and if we compare them to the other 12 square section found in the same tomb, they have matching animals facing to the left, which were clearly located on the right column of the large block of the Royal Game of Ur with Animals.
Left Column of the Large Block Fragment of the Gaming Board with Goats (Ur Artifact U9112), kept in the National Museum of Iraq (IM 4177).
Originally, it is possible that the rules of all of the versions of the Royal Game of Ur were very simple and most tile designs had no significance, except for the rosettes which gave the player a second turn. The game was played in the exactly the same simple manner as Aseb. However, I would like to work out a more complex set of rules of the animals version of the Royal Game of Ur, similar to the standard Royal Game of Ur with dots patterns, that was worked out by Dmitriy Skiryuk (Дмитрий Скирюк). Since the tiles pattern and markings are not the same on the two games it would make sense that the rules would be different and complex to make use of each tile design. I will be working out the correct tile pattern on the board and the rules of the game over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
- Woolley, Leonard. Ur Excavations: Volume II, The Royal Cemetery: A Report on the Predynastic and Sargonid Graves Excavated Between 1926 and 1931. Publications of the British Museum and University of Pennsylvania, 1934. Volume 1. Text.
- Woolley, Leonard. Ur Excavations: Volume II, The Royal Cemetery: A Report on the Predynastic and Sargonid Graves Excavated Between 1926 and 1931. Publications of the British Museum and University of Pennsylvania, 1934. Volume 2. Plates.
- Woolley, Leonard. The Development of Sumerian Art. Faber and Faber Limited, 1958.